Tips on Preventing Back Pain at Home and Work
So you are doing everything right to take care of your back. You are taking Pilates once or twice a week. Trying to watch your posture when you sit. And yet you continue to be plagued by bouts of lower back pain that can ruin your whole day, even your entire week. Why does this happen? “Is it because I am just getting old?”
Don’t jump on the “I am just getting old” boat yet. Here are some quick statistics about lower back pain:
1. 70-90% of the human population will experience lower back pain sometime in his/her life.
2. 90% of all episodes of lower back pain will resolve on its own.
3. Lower back pain is the NUMBER 1 cause if lost work days in the United States.
While some episodes of lower back pain are caused by a traumatic event (car accident, fall), the majority of all back pain is caused by poor posture and using poor body mechanics with our activities of daily living.
Basically, this means that how you sit, get out of bed, lift a child, push a vacuum cleaner or even stand in line at the grocery store can take it’s toll on your lower back and lead to back pain. And even the strongest of core muscles can not make up for poor posture and bad body mechanics.
Here are a few tips on how to move about your day correctly to prevent back pain:
1. SITTING……This is a BIG one. Sitting is the leading cause of the insidious onset of lower back pain. First, make sure you sit in a sturdy chair with a straight back. No recliners or soft sofas….these just destroy any chance of sitting with proper posture. Make sure the chair fits you. When you sit, your hips and knees should be positioned at a 90 degree angle with the feet resting flat on the floor. Next, get up every 30-45 minutes of sitting. Walk around, stretch backwards a few times. The longer you sit, the more stress you are placing on the discs and ligaments of the spine.
2. LIFTING…..How you lift both large and small objects can effect whether or not you develop lower back pain. If you are lifting an object less than 10 pounds (pillow, sock off the floor, etc) it is best to use the ” golfer’s lift” technique (see picture). When you lift more than 10 pounds, you should use the “squat lift” technique …..first get as close to your object as possible, separate your legs wider than your hips, then squat down using your legs to lift the object. Remember to keep your abdominals engaged and your back straight. Finally, get someone to help you lift heavy or awkward objects.
3. GETTING OUT OF BED……Yes, even getting out of bed in the morning can effect how your back feels the rest of the day. Most of us just shoot straight up into a seated position when that alarm starts blaring. However, it is best to use the “log roll” technique to get out of bed each day. First your bend your knees, then roll to one side keeping your spine stable (like a log). Dangle legs off the edge of the bed then push yourself into a seated position.
4. PUSHING/PULLING…..Pushing a vacuum cleaner or pulling open a door can definitely stress the spine if done incorrectly. Pushing is always safer on the back than pulling, so if you have a choice, choose to push. Remember these tips whenever you are pushing or pulling….(1) Stagger your stance instead of having the feet together. (2)Bend your knees while you push or pull. This allows the leg muscles to help with the task. (3)Keep your spine straight as opposed to bending forward while pushing or pulling. (4)Engage your abdominals during the task.
Back pain is extremely common and is often caused by daily activities at home and work. Follow some of the tips above to decrease the daily stress on your spine. While doing Pilates won’t prevent all back pain, it can help to improve your posture awareness, increase the strength and endurance of your core muscles and it can help you recover quickly when you do sustain a back injury.
Contact ABS Pilates of Columbus, Ohio today if you have questions regarding this information or if you want to take steps today to help prevent back pain tomorrow. Amanda B. Smith, licensed physical therapist, certified Pilates instructor, Certified McKenzie Therapist with more than 25 years of experience can help you get on track today.